Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Weekend: In Photos And A Few Words, Too

Good Friday was for dying Easter eggs using Kool Aid (thank you, Pinterest.  It was the easiest, quickest method we've tried yet).  To be noted: this was the first year that I did not have to end up finishing the egg dying process on my own thanks to kids who lost interest.  Isabelle is at the most wonderful age and really, really loves these sorts of projects.  For the most part, I got to just sit back and relax and let them have fun creating beautiful things.  They made a big mess and I didn't care one bit, also to be noted.


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Holy Saturday was for planting flowers and enjoying a cup of tea on the back porch with visiting best friends. We gathered at my cousin's house for a big Easter dinner with our extended family, lots of babies and aunts and uncles and good food. We had our annual egg paqueing contest, a Louisiana tradition that involves lots of egg knocking and people hollering.  Brees said, "Mommy, you wanna paque?  I got the best egg!". The kids hunted for Easter eggs long after the sun set and the grown ups laughed and talked and enjoyed each other, something we don't get to do as often as we'd like in this crazy busy world.  We drove our sleeping babies home and prepared for the Easter Bunny's arrival, feeling completely grateful for the overwhelming amount of love this big crazy family gives us.


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Easter Sunday was for a very early wake up call and alone time with my mother in the kitchen as we prepared the Easter feast: slow roasted brisket, fresh green beans, homemade mac n'cheese, and "dirty rice". The kids woke up and took in their Easter basket treats, River still sleepy and annoyed with the bunny ears we forced on him to commemorate his first Easter. He warmed up pretty quickly, though, and smiled big enough for us to discover that he grew two new bunny teeth overnight! We got all dressed up and headed to church, one of the most beautiful masses and a renewed sense of faith filling my soul.  My brother and his family joined us for a relaxing day in the back yard, the cousins playing, the sun warming our faces, our plates overflowing and our laughter big and loud.  It was such a special day, so relaxing, so full of love.  Shawn and I cleaned up the post lunch mess after our guests were gone and then sat on the back porch while the kids napped, talking the whole weekend over and counting our blessings.  "That was a really good weekend, babe.  Everything just worked out so nice" he said to me, smiling proud.  And it was.  A very happy Easter indeed.


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Firsts

The first year of a child's life is marked by firsts, memories made and milestones recorded.  I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff, paying close attention to each little detail and celebrating small moments as if they were momentous occasions.  We make big to-dos about things in this family, allowing each family member their own time to shine.  Got an A on your math test?  You're getting that special pancake dinner you've been asking for!  Using the big girl potty and learning to wash your hands all by yourself?  A special treat is coming your way!  And River: well, let's just say he's been wracking up the celebratory first points around here.  He went from sleepy ring sling baby to mover and shaker in the blink of an eye and I find myself scratching my head and wondering HOW?  And please slow down.  Thank you.

I am trying to enjoy his little triumphs, choosing not to dwell on the fact that this might be it for us.  Another baby?  We just aren't sure.  And so while it may be River's first time eating real food, it also might be our last time giving our baby real food for the first time.  Which sounds like an insane thing to consider but that's just where my head is this week.  Trying to wrap my brain around the fact that life is moving FAST and this is one chapter I never want to forget.  I am in no hurry for this phase to evolve into something else.  I love being a mama to a baby, this baby, and I am so happy in my life right now.

He's a good one, our River.  He is happy and sweet and loves to give kisses.  He lets me hold him and rock him and hug him as much as I want and I do so as much as I can.  The big sisters are his best playmates, though, and the three of them can often be found on the living room rug playing and talking and entertaining each other.  I credit the quickness of his firsts to the fact that he is trying to keep up with them, working hard at being able to follow them wherever they go.

River has learned to sit up.

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River has learned to crawl.


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River ate his first real food.

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And he even pulled up for the first time, proudly smiling and showing off his first two teeth.

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"The days are long but the years are short" my grandmother always used to say.  And she was right.  A year full of firsts, each day bringing changes and growth and a brand new little person learning his way around this world.  It is a miracle to witness so much life unfolding right before our eyes, to see the day to day adventures that make up a child's first year.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who I Am And Other Life Epiphanies

We spent the weekend at a spiritual retreat: Shawn, the kids and I, and our church group.  Lent is such a special time of devotion and self reflection, a time to focus on the present and leave the outside noise behind. A time to reprioritize your goals and expectations and let go of anything that might be distracting you and your relationship with God.  It is a season of prayer and thanksgiving, a lesson in faith and discipleship.  It is, in every way, the most perfect time to get away for a few days and devote yourself completely to your spiritual journey.  And that is what we did: with our children by our side and a beautiful group of friends who are on the same path, we spent three days strengthening our values and replenishing our souls.

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There were so many lessons learned, so many truths uncovered.  For me, personally, I feel that I learned the value of being true to myself and who I want to be in this life.  More importantly, who God wants me to be. One of the speakers at the retreat spoke at length about connecting who you are on the inside with who you show on the outside.  She encouraged us to really examine ourselves: what we value, how we see ourselves, how our own personal perceptions of who we are compares to what other people think of us.  She asked us to think of one word, one word that we would use to describe ourselves and what we hope to represent in this life.  The first word that came to my heart was PEACE.  I want to exude peace.  I want to allow the love and strength and courage that I feel in my heart, the love and strength and courage that I receive from my family and my career and my passions and my love for Christ to be so strong and powerful that peace just flows out of me and onto everyone around me.  I want my face to be warm, to shine with radiant happiness. I want to bring peace to others with my actions and my words, to be the kind of person who serves as a refuge to those who are in need. And I want all of this peace to come with a quiet and calm serenity.  That the peace I exude is not accompanied by a wall of words, by loud and boisterous tones, and not in overwhelming waves.  But that it be calm and slow and genuine.  That it invites those around me to share in the peace, that it quiets all of my anxieties and fears and propels me forward into each and every new adventure.

The reality is that I am a far cry from being the peaceful soul that I strive for.  God made me loud and anxious and full of vibrant life.  He made me strong and fearless but with a rambunctious nature.  Being still and present, being a good listener with a quiet affect: it is a challenge for me.  One of my favorite quotes is by Jack London:

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste me days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

There's a connection, I learned this weekend, between who I WANT to be and who I AM.  Embracing who I am, with all of my flaws and inconsistencies, while still soul searching for my potentials and inspirations, is a beautiful and emotional process.  I can still be the "superb meteor", an energy so alive and free that I exude that "magnificent glow".  But I can learn to draw from a more quiet and peaceful place inside my soul, a place that only God can strengthen and bring forth.  I can learn to lead with my faith, to step back and listen rather than jumping ahead at lightening bolt speed.  I can evolve into a person who lives big and loud but who does so with the peaceful energy I feel inside my heart.

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We left that beautiful retreat center on Sunday with hearts on fire, new affirmations made, a family more solid and connected. When I look at my life and the people I am blessed to be with, I feel grateful and humbled. They ground me, inspire me, and motivate me to continue to fight my way through this life. I feel closer to who I am, who I want to be, who I aspire to grow into. A perfectly imperfect peace loving soul, a loud and colorful warrior who strives to exude peace and humility. With a servant heart, I move forward, ready to use my thoughts and answered prayers, ready to take on the world.

P.S.  This photo is one of my favorites.  It so perfectly shows the art and beautiful chaos of parenting.  Going on a retreat with a gang of babies is not easy but together we made it work.  What a blessing these babies all are, what an inspiration it is to see all of this activity!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Run Liv Run

I don't believe in stressing out about weight gain during pregnancy.  Or anywhere soon after delivering a baby for that matter.  I eat well, exercise regularly, and keep hydrated but I don't feel guilty about having a big ole' bowl of ice cream sitting on top of my growing belly.  It is a time to nurture your body, to retreat into yourself and enjoy the moment for what it is: growth.  And after the baby is born, it is more of the same: taking care of your body so that you can take care of your new little one, getting in the right amount of calories so that your body can produce enough milk.  I've always tried to keep a healthy outlook on the weight gain, the decreased endurance, the slowness that takes over my usual active self.  I am growing a family and these physical changes really are worth it.

But then the times comes to start moving again.  I can feel it from the top of my head to the tips of my toes: my body starts aching to become strong again.  I have more energy thanks to the baby developing better sleep habits, I am able to leave him for short periods of time thanks to his feedings spacing out more and more.  My soul is awakened as the post partum phase melts away: he is not an infant anymore and it is time to move into the next chapter.  I have rested and nourished my healing body and now it is time to build it back up again.

My plan: good old fashioned clean eating and exercise.  There's no cheat sheet for losing weight in my personal experience, only hard work and dedication.  I am listening to my body and it is speaking loud and clear: MOVE!!  Get up and go and do it often.  Here's how I'm getting it done:

1.  Fitbit: This handy little activity monitor keeps me motivated and accountable.  It counts my steps each day and then, thanks to its wireless capability, uploads my daily activities to my computer where I am able to track everything.  My online profile, which I'm also able to access on my iPhone, allows me to keep a daily food and exercise log.  Keeping a food journal is key for me.  It really keeps my eyes open to what I am really eating versus this ideal picture I have in my head of what I'm eating.  The Fitbit has been a great source of motivation for me.

2.  Run Liv Run:  I'm running again.  I'm embarrassed to even document how long it's been so I've ran but, trust me, it's been a while.  I'm easing back into it with the use of the Couch to 5K app and keeping my runs to only 3 times a week.  I'm cross training in the gym 1-2 times a week to encourage muscle strength and endurance.

3.  Yoga:  I'm still doing yoga 3-4 times per week but I have taken my practice up a notch, focusing more on strength and core muscle building.  I am using Yogaglo.com and I can not rave about this website enough.  There are so many different options for classes to take, intensity levels, class duration, etc.  Shawn and I are even using this site for guided meditations after we put the kids to bed at night.  My current season of life just does not permit me to go to class outside of the home but this website literally brings a multitude of classes to me.

4.  Cleaning up:  Though we eat very well in this house, we could always be eating better.  Last month, we went through our kitchen and let go of some things that just weren't good for us, bringing in the healthier alternatives instead.  I do not believe in deprivation, only moderation.  By making slow and steady changes, we are setting ourselves up for long term success.  We follow a couple of rules in our kitchen and they really work for us: eat seasonal, shop local, stick to the outside perimeter of the grocery store, prep the fruits and veggies for the week for quick access, plan ahead to avoid temptations, and treat yourself at least once a week.  The cleaner I eat, the less my body craves high calorie/high fat foods.  Hydration is key and I try to drink at least 80 oz of water per day.  I don't believe in diets or quick fixes, only nutrient dense foods that will keep my body strong and healthy.

I am a work in progress, a beautiful mess of a woman who has grown and given birth and nourished three babies.  I do not want to be skinny or perfect or any version of my old self, I simply want to be the best version of my current self.  I want to be strong and flexible, I want to be able to run a 9 minute mile.  I want to be able to do a hand stand away from the wall.  I want to feel good in my clothes and comfortable in my own skin.  I want to be able to look in the mirror and feel proud of myself, to know that I am doing good things for my body and therefore doing good things for my family.  When I show myself love, when I take care of myself and focus on the positive, I am showing love to everyone around me.  This journey is a beautiful one, no matter how hard or discouraging it sometimes feels, and I am humbled each and every day as I witness my body changing and accomplishing small goals.  Cheers to good health, self love, and a stronger version of me!


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Friday, March 21, 2014

Together

As we were getting the little kids dressed after bath time, I excitedly told Shawn about Brees and her new found love of the solar system.  At three years old, she can recite all eight planets and tell you little facts about each one.  "Venus has no water and Saturn has rings made of ice!" she told me this morning over breakfast, all things she learned from a series of videos we've been watching.  Shawn and I hugged her and complimented her, so proud of the way she latched onto this new information, adding to her growing collection of facts and lessons learned.  Her three year old mind is just soaking up every piece of information we can give her and it is an amazing process to witness.

But then Belle stepped in, a look of hurt on her face, "I can recite all of the planets, too!".  She was upset and defensive, the attention her sister was getting like a slap in her face.  She felt left out, overshadowed.

I hugged her close, empathetic towards her feelings as I have felt them myself with my own siblings. "I know that you do" I said to her, squeezing her close.  We let her know that we were proud of her, too, but that this conversation had nothing to do with whether or not SHE knew something, it was about something that Brees did.  Celebrating a victory for one sister does not mean that we are expressing disappointment in the other sister.  One has nothing to do with the other.  "I know" she said, looking down at her feet.  "I just felt kind of, you know...".

We know.  We understand.  And it's okay.  This is how it goes with siblings.  Each member of a family is different: different strengths, different weaknesses, certain qualities that are all their own.  Sometimes it feels that one person in particular just has it all together, rising to the occasion at every golden opportunity.  Some people are just naturally more charismatic than others, some people have to work really hard while others just seem to flow right through life.  Sometimes you get lots of attention, other days make you wonder if anyone even knows you're alive.

"God created each and every one of us in His image", I said to Belle.  He made us all special and perfectly unique.  He gave each of us something extraordinary, something that makes us exactly who we are supposed to be.  But, more importantly, He put certain people in our lives on purpose.  This family, it is no accident.  We are all here together, living this life, because we were meant to journey as a team, our own little tribe.  Whatever you are lacking, your sister is here to lift you up.  When she or your brother are in need, you are just the girl to run to their rescue.  Sibling rivalry, feelings of jealousy or inadequacy: these are all normal feelings that everyone experiences. Don't let it get you down, though.  For there is no greater love than the love of your brother and sister.

When I think back on my childhood: my siblings are the ones who hold my heart so dear.  Late night talks after Mama thought we were asleep, long summer night bike rides, adventures in the woods, sneaking out to the high school after party that we weren't supposed to go to: those are the memories that shape so much of my early life.  And I want my kids to know that love, to feel that connection, to experience that sense of belonging.  There will be times, I am sure, when their relationships are not always so close and sweet.  But the love they share right now, the foundation that they are building as they spend hours playing Barbies together, those are the times that will always lead them home.  To each other.


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Stats: Month Six

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River at 6 months:

Weight/Height: 17.8 lbs 27 inches long

Sleeping:  We moved River to his own bed this month and he has been sleeping all night ever since.  The transition was super easy: he was ready to have his own space to stretch out, a quiet room with no distractions.  We didn't use any special strategy or technique, we simply followed our normal bedtime routine and put him in his crib: dinner, bath, story time, prayers, and then bed.  He was a little fussy for the first two nights, understandably so.  Being alone in his bed was a new concept and so we stayed nearby and went into his room to reassure him when he cried out or fussed.  We picked him up, rocked him, calmed him down, and then put him back down.  I've never been able to let my kids cry it out, it's just not for our family.  But going into River's room to reassure him when he was upset worked for us.  After two nights of this, he was comfortable in his new bed and slept 12 hours straights, from 7 to 7.  Words can not describe the difference a full night's sleep has meant for ALL of us, baby and parents.  We are all happier and starting our days which much better attitudes.

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Feeding:  River is nursing like a champ, so much so that I've had to add an extra pumping session during my work day to keep up with his demand.  I have to be very vigilant about staying hydrated and eating enough calories to keep up with my growing boy's needs.  He is showing a big interest in food, reaching for things at the table and watching us intently.  We will start solids with his pediatrician's approval after his 6 month check up.

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Milestones:  River is sitting up independently and rolling over both ways.  He gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth.  He has two bottom teeth and is working on more.  He babbles "dadada" and "mamama" and squeals and coos constantly.  He recognizes faces and voices and gives me the best greeting when I get home from work.  He also protests very loud and clear when I try to put him down.  This month, River celebrated his first Mardi Gras with his first trip to New Orleans, had his first Valentines' Day, and spent lots of time with family and friends.

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Personality:  River is very active now and seems to be in constant motion: rolling and scooting and grabbing.  He is a very, very happy baby and giggles and smiles constantly.  His hair is a strawberry blonde color and his eyes are still grayish blue.  He looks exactly like his Daddy to me.  He loves to hug and give kisses and play on the floor with his sisters.  He loves to play with his feet and eat his toes. He loves to be outside and enjoys going on walks.  River is a thumb sucker and loves his Sophie the Giraffe. River loves to sleep on his tummy and no longer likes to be rocked to sleep, preferring instead to fall asleep on his own in his crib.  I will admit that this makes me very sad.


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This has been my favorite month so far with our little buddy.  His likes and dislikes are very clear and his cues are very easy to read.  I feel so comfortable with him and he is by far our easiest and most mobile baby. He has stolen all of our hearts and is truly a very loved little boy.


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